In working with transforming churches, Paul Borden always starts with three principles (or assumptions) about his understanding of church. The first one is that the church is a living organism and every living organism GROWS and MULTIPLIES. As you know, when our children are born, we take them in to measure height and weight, and we track their progress as compared to other children their age. We make this correlation to the life of the church as well! A healthy church will grow in the quantity and quality of disciples. Usually churches are ready to embrace the concept that healthy things grow. What is more of a challenge for churches is to embrace is the concept that they should also multiply. Churches can become resistant to multiplication for a variety of reasons that usually stem around fear of losing people or resources to church plants.
This year in my newsletter articles I have been focusing on the values and measures of ECO. The last of these measures of a flourishing church is that it “Prepares to Launch”. This measure doesn’t mean that a church only prepares and births a new church, but it is also continually in a state of multiplication. Just like the vast majority of the cells in our body continually go through mitosis where they replicate their DNA to prepare for multiplication, so healthy churches are always in a state of replication.
Exponential, a network focused on church planting, commissioned a study about 6 years ago and found that only 4% of churches in America had actively planted another church. Fortunately, most of these churches had planted multiple churches. Exponential has since recommissioned the study. Last year they found the number has now gone up to 7% of churches that had planted new churches. This increase is likely a combination of more churches involved in church planting and many other churches closing.
If ECO is going become the movement that God has called us to become, then church planting has to be a significant part of our strategy and our future. This coming year, we want to do several things to enhance church planting. First, I am thankful that Nate Stratman, ECO Church Planter and Pastor at Hope Community in Wilmington, NC, has been and will continue to help coordinate efforts to develop the necessary infrastructure for church planting in ECO. Nate’s wisdom and experience has been invaluable as he works with me and others both inside and outside of ECO to put this infrastructure in place.
A few other of these elements also include: a standardized plant and planter assessment processes, criteria for internships to develop church planters, as well as initial and on-going training and coaching opportunities. It is also our desire in this next year to raise some funds to support church planting. We initially didn’t want to have funds for church planting be a national function for a variety of good reasons. However, in talking to other denominations who have had to jump start church planting in their contexts, they have found funding to be extremely helpful for a variety of reasons. Deeper information on all of these issues will be shared in other venues throughout the year where greater explanation and dialogue can be given, so keep an eye out.
How can your church prepare to launch new churches? Some churches are currently engaging in the multiplication process as their Flourishing Next Step. These are not just large churches! One church of 60 attendees on a Sunday based in a rural community is developing their vision to plant several smaller rural churches through a bi-vocational and perhaps Commissioned Lay Pastor model. Some churches are considering planting as a part of their MAG group. So, any church can be actively involved in church planting! If your church isn’t at the point of actively engaging church planting then I would encourage you to find plants in your presbytery or neighboring presbytery and consider how you might support these financially, prayerfully, and through other relationships and avenues. An example of this is that one church is inviting the women of a church plant to be a part of their women’s retreat. I love to see this kind of connection!
I know that planting a church can seem like a big step for many churches and I understand the natural hesitation. I also understand that there are times when a church needs to focus on its health so that they replicate healthy DNA. At the same time, I would encourage all churches to have “Preparing to Launch” on their radar and seek some way to be involved in multiplication. I can’t wait to see what God does among our ECO churches in the coming years as we seek to not only grow, but multiply!
The Flourishing Church Podcast
Developing A Heart For Church Planting with
Keon Abner is the lead planter at Legacy City Church (Cleveland, OH) along with his wife Ashley.
The Dandelion Project
The Dandelion Project is a multiplying network of Home Churches who seek to reveal God’s Kingdom wherever we live, work and play.
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